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IRS data goes from free to $12,000 per month

In 1976, a court ordered the Internal Revenue Service to disclose records showing how thoroughly it audits big corporations and the rich, and how much it discounts the additional taxes assessed after audits. And, “For decades, the information was given at no charge to a professor at Syracuse University, Susan B. Long, who made it available on the Internet at trac.syr.edu, with tools for people to conduct their own analyses.” But, “In May 2004, the service told her that it would not provide the information and ordered its statisticians to stop answering her questions. It also advised her that if it ever did make the data public again, the information would cost $12,000 a month to receive electronic copies.”

  • I.R.S. Is Sued on Failure to Release Tax Data By David Cay Johnston, January 10, 2006 New York Times.
  • Much of what the public knows about the efficiency, effectiveness and evenhandedness of the revenue service and other big federal agencies is based on the figures that Professor Long collects and posts.

    CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

    1 Comment

    1. This story is another illustration of why digital deposit is a good idea. Let’s suppose that instead of giving Professor Long the IRS data directly, the agency had provided the information through a publicly accessible database where she could run queries but not independently post or manipulate the data. If that had been the case, in 2004 not only would Professor Long (and the rest of us) be denied new data, but we would have lost access to all the data provided since 1976. This would have been a consequence of letting the government have sole responsibility for providing access to federal data and publications.

      Having said that, charging $12,000/month for data the taxpayers already paid for is outrageous and unacceptable!

      “And besides all that, what we need is a decentralized, distributed system of depositing electronic files to local libraries willing to host them.” — Daniel Cornwall, tipping his hat to Cato the Elder for the original quote.

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